Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Can Understand The Book Of #Revelation (Introduction, #Prophecy)

Method of Interpretation 

Many people have offered a variety of different interpretations of Revelation over the years, that  have proven to be false. This may be largely due to the spiritualized method of interpretation they use. Once the literal system of interpretation has been abandoned, the book can basically mean whatever anyone wants it to mean, and this has proven to be the case in so many failed interpretations.   Some have been discouraged by this, into thinking the book must just be too difficult for them to understand. The prophecy starts, however, with a promise of blessing for those who hear and understand. God wants his servants to know the things John has seen, which are, and which shall be hereafter.  If you're a believer in and servant of Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit, and God both wants and will enable you to understand His word (1 Cor. 2:6-16).  I believe the literal system of interpretation is the best way to ensure that all of God's followers come to a correct and consistent understanding of the book. Let me show you how you can interpret Revelation literally, while allowing for it's symbolic language, and without employing an inconsistent method of interpretation: 

Revelation 1 

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 

Here, Christ says He is the Alpha and Omega. This is a symbolic reference. So what does it mean? Does the literal system of interpretation say it means Christ is the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet? No. It says right in the text that follows. It means He is the "Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come...". Thus, the symbolism means that the Lord is eternal, Almighty God. The plain, literal statements of the surrounding text qualifies what the symbol means. 

Now, let's move on to the next symbol: 

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 

Now, it says John heard a great voice, as of a trumpet. Does the literal system of interpretation claim that means John heard a literal trumpet playing? No. It says he heard a great voice "as" of a trumpet. By using the word "as", the text is plainly identifying that "trumpet" is a symbol to show 
what the voice sounded like. 

The great majority of symbols in the book of Revelation, are like this. They tell us something is "like", or "as" something else, then use a symbol to describe what it is like. Thus, you can interpret according to the plain meaning of the text, while allowing for symbols. 

Now, let's move on to a different example: 

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 

16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 

Here, it refers to candlesticks and stars, but doesn't say "as" a star, or "like" a candlestick. So must we now resort to some spiritualization to understand what this means? No. Why? Because the text plainly tells us what these symbols are: 

20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. 

The stars are the messengers of the seven churches, and the candlesticks are the seven churches. Then, further on, in chapter 2, the context gives us even more explanation: 

1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;... 
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 

The Lord holds the stars (messengers) in His hand, and can remove the candlestick (the church, with it's light bearing testimony). 

How about the sword that goes out of the Lord's mouth? "and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:" Does the literal system of interpretation conclude Christ must be walking around with a literal sword coming out of His mouth? No. Then how do we know what the sword is? Because the Bible plainly tells us: 

Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 

Thus, the "two-edged sword", is the "word of God". But even so, if God wants it to be not only that the word goes forth out of Christ's mouth, but also that some type of flaming sword actually does appear, would that be too difficult for God, or inconsistent with things He has enabled people to see before?  I trow not, as we shall see below. 

What about the horse Christ rides on? Well, again, the Bible gives us other examples of what this could mean. For example: 

2 Kings 2 
10 "You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours— otherwise not." 
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 
12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. 

Or again: 

2 Kings 6:17 
And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. 

So apparently, heavenly beings do sometimes literally appear to those who dwell on earth, to be riding on horses. Why then can we not understand that Christ may literally appear, riding on what literally appears to be a horse? 

Yes, there are many symbols used in the book of Revelation, but almost all of them fit into these categories. Either they are simply symbolic comparisons (feet "like" brass) to tell us what something is "like", or "as", or the text plainly tells us what the mystery is, or the Bible elsewhere gives us a clear definition of what it means. 

Thus, you can safely interpret the book of Revelation, according to a literal system of interpretation that does not ascribe a non-sensical meaning to the text (such as that Christ is walking around with a literal sword coming out of His mouth), and which safeguards against wild and variant spiritualizations that basically allow you to read whatever meaning you want into the text. 

Basically, the literal system of interpretation just says that the text means what it plainly says, unless it indicates it is using symbols, or figures of speech. And even these, as we have seen, are almost always explained by the text itself. Otherwise, anyone can spiritualize the text to the point it can basically mean whatever they want.

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